A Journey into the World of Atoms and Molecules
 Nanotechnology refers to a cluster of technologies directed
to making, studying and manipulating structures at the nanometre
scale. The prefix 'nano' comes from the Greek word nanos meaning
dwarf, i.e. nano refers to something small. Nano designates 10-9
which means that one nanometre (nm) is one thousand millionth of a
metre (Table 1).
 Research on the nanoscale is not new in the sense that
researchers have studied atoms and molecules for well over a
century. However, it is not this 'old-fashioned'
nanotechnology that creates so much interest. What is new
about nanotechnology is the fact that researchers are now capable
of handling and characterizing nanostructures by means of advanced
microscopes and thus are gaining the power to alter physical
structure at the atomic level.
 Research into nanotechnology is heterogeneous. This
means it involves a huge variety of dissimilar elements or
materials; for instance it includes the transmission of drugs to
cells, nanobiosensors, microelectronics, nanooptics, chemical
catalysis, hydrogen technology, material surfaces and biocompatible
materials like e.g. implants (Table 2). As appears from these
research areas, a variety of disciplines contribute to
nanotechnology, such as physics, chemistry, molecular biology,
biology, medicine, electronics, engineering and materials science
work.Some of its potential is suggested in the various graphics and
tables that follow.
 To fully capitalise on the visions of nanotechnology it is
important to establish a close collaboration between the various
disciplines involved in nanotechnology. Hence, nanoscience centres
have been established in order to create a framework for
co-operation, sharing of knowledge and the development of a culture
beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. Internationally, the
goal is also to integrate the humanities and the social sciences
into this emerging interdisciplinary approach to nanotechnology. To
achieve this goal many governments have called upon studies in risk
assessment, social science aspects and ethics considerations in
parallel with the more traditional nanotechnology research
1. ETC Group (2003).The Big Down: Atomtech - Technologies
Converging at the Nano-scale.
2. TT Transtechnics http://www.transtechnics.com/eng/conceptos1.htm
3. The ABB Group www.abb.com